Book Review: The Crown’s Game Duology

I’m going to start this off by saying that there will be spoilers for each book in the reviews. Normally I try to write non-spoilery reviews, but I just couldn’t avoid spoilers when reviewing these. If you just want my quick thoughts with no spoilers you can read my Goodreads reviews of the books (The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate).


The Crown’s Game
Author:
Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


The Crown’s Game is a hard book to review. Because I LOVED IT, but when I step back I see the faults with it. I think I’m giving it 5 stars for the entertainment aspect, but 3 stars for critical reasons, and just landing on 4 stars over all.

From the synopsis you’d expect a deadly, fast paced story of two enchanters battling to win the title of Imperial Enchanter. What you get is an addictive story that has very little action but never the less keeps you entranced. While it is a battle to the death, the stakes never feel that dire while each enchanter is taking their turns in the duel. I did love the way they used their magic, but it never felt like they were really trying to kill each other. Granted, that could be down to the fact that these are teenagers and they shouldn’t WANT to commit murder, but the story is about a deadly game. I’ll loop back to that deadly game in a minute.

The characters were all just okay. The only one I really cared for was Ludmila, the bakery owner who acts as a sort of grandmother figure for Vika. Nikolai was good too, now that I think of it, and I liked his background. Pasha was fun, but the whole love triangle between him, Nikolai, and Vika just sort of grated on me. Also, there is insta love and that bothers me in hindsight, though I didn’t care while I was reading the book.

And then we have the culmination of the game. After the Tsar dies (there is a pretty fun twist in how that happens so I won’t tell you how), Pasha is convinced by his sister to force an end to the game, but having Vika and Nikolai fight to the death. Nikolai, being the love stricken gentleman that he is, stabs himself in the heart with a blade given to him by his mentor, Galina, that will never miss it’s mark. Instead of the Nikolai’s heart being pierced, Vika is stabbed through the heart via magic. I LOVE this twist. Love, love, love! Of course, Nikolai then gives Vika all his life force to save her and he seemingly dies. But a part of him remains in the magical realm. While I usually am one for killing off characters and having them STAY DEAD, I loved this ending. It made me immediately want to jump into the next book.

I did love the writing for the most part. While I am certainly no expert on Russia, it seemed like there was good world building and I’m hoping it was based on real world knowledge. Whenever there was talk of the Russian foods I was drooling. And even though the book lacked a lot of action, it was still a book I didn’t want to put down! I don’t know how Skye did it, but her writing is completely absorbing.


The Crown’s Fate
Author:
Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzar + Blay
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: 2.75 stars
Synopsis: Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.


Let’s start with something I didn’t mention in my review of The Crown’s Game: Nikolai and Pasha find out they are half brothers, since the Tsar was a scoundrel. Nikolai’s mother, Aizhana, was a healer out on the steppe and had a one night stand with the Tsar, resulting in Nikolai. I mention this now because not only is Aizhana the cause of a lot of strife in this book, but the story focuses a lot on Nikolai trying to over throw Pasha as rightful heir.

The Crown’s Fate was a 2.75 star for me. I don’t want to give it a 2.5, but a 3 feels too high. And I’m going to be very honest, I skimmed a lot of this book. Well, I zoned out on a lot because I read this one via audio (Steve West’s narration was spot on though). This book, though having a bit more action and stakes then The Crown’s Game, failed to grab my attention in the same way that Game did.

I absolutely could not stand Pasha or his sister, Yuliana. Pasha had zero back bone (not something you want in a future Tsar) and Yuliana was an awful human being. Vika and Nikolai (who is definitely alive) spend a lot of time thinking the other doesn’t care about them, to the point where I was rolling my eyes way too much. The romantic angst in this one definitely started to bother me.

I did enjoy the more political scheming plot line of this story. Though Nikolai’s darker side was kind of grating. The revolution kinda fizzled out towards the end but I mostly enjoyed getting there. The writing was good, but this book just felt lacking compared to the first.

I will say that I liked the ending. I’m normally one for death and tragedy, but the happily ever after felt right for this story. I wont give any details past that, but just know that things tie up quite nicely for everyone.


At the end of the day, The Crown’s Game’s and The Crown’s Fate were fast reads that would be good for people who are just looking to get into fantasy books or who need a break from heavier fantasy novels. I am certainly interested in reading more from Evelyn Skye.

Book Review: Heartless

Heartless
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.


FYI: while I try not to say spoilers out right, this review could be viewed as mildly spoilery.

Heartless is a beautifully written origin story for the Queen of Hearts. Knowing what we know of the Queen of Hearts, we can surmise that this doesn’t end well. While I was anticipating some good heartbreak, I found myself oddly unfeeling at the tragic plot twist. But that disappointment in not shedding a tear (I like it when books make me cry), did not overshadow the brilliant and often scrumptious writing.

Cath is a nobleman’s daughter with dreams of opening her own bakery with her maid and friend, Mary Ann. Cath is…not my favorite character. At least not until the end when she evolves into the Queen of Hearts (don’t @ me, that isn’t a spoiler). Cath is wishy-washy and reminds me of those rich girls whose lives are just so terrible, even though they have all the money and boys in the world. I don’t know what it says about me that I only liked her when she became a full on, hardcore B. I will say that she does have a lot of terrible people in her life *glares in the general direction of Cath’s parents*, but homegirl just needed to grow up, drop that toxicity, and do what she needed to do to make herself happy. Also, maybe heed creepy prophecies given by creepy little girls.

Just as Cath is about to get betrothed the wimpy King of Hearts, she meets Jest and suddenly she wants more than just a bakery in her life. Jest is mysterious and snarky and all things I love in a book boyfriend. His backstory is really interesting and I love what we find out about his life. And while I really liked him, I just didn’t feel much for him. His courtship with Cath was tortured, which I love, but Cath’s inability to make a damn decision for herself kinda killed it for me, so I was never able to get fully invested in their relationship.

I absolutely loved all the side characters. Heck, I was more emotionally impacted by a early death of a side character than I was for the big tragic twist. Hatta is sheer perfection. His descent into madness and the reveal of his hidden feelings were the hardest thing for me. I was endlessly fascinated by the different creatures and characters of Hearts, from the flamingo croquet mallets to the cards. Everything was so perfectly whimsical.

Even through all my disconnects with Cath and the tragic plot twists, I will say that the writing in this book was stellar. I am fully surprised that I didn’t gain weight while reading this because I constantly wanted to eat desserts every time Cath baked. I don’t know much about Lewis Carroll’s original story of Wonderland, but I’ve gathered from other readers that this novel was respective of, but built more on, the original Wonderland. Based on Meyer’s writing in Heartless, I am now even more excited about starting her Lunar Chronicles series.

Heartless is a damn fine book and I can see why so many of my friends recommended it to me when I asked for tragic book recommendations. But looking back, I was walking myself straight into the trap of hype. I think because I guessed how things would end, I never let myself get too invested in the romance, and that left me feeling…well, heartless.

I buddy read this with the awesome Sabreena @ Books and Prosecco, who also posted her review of Heartless today. Her reviews are always amazing and well written, so I recommend checking it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent TBR Additions!

Oh hello Tuesday! Aren’t you just going so splendidly!! I didn’t think it was possible for a perfect day to exist! (FYI: I’m pre-writing this post so I’m trying to send out positive vibes to the future)

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List! (I’m interpreting this as additions to my owned TBR) I’m trying to be better about buying books this year since I have the tendency to buy more books than I read. I have recently had a few additions to my TBR thanks to ARCs and some gift cards because those totally don’t count against my unofficial book buying ban.

  • The Binding by Bridget Collins – So, technically this one doesn’t come out in the US until April, but I ordered a copy from Book Depository because I CANNOT WAIT on this one. Go read the synopsis and try to tell me you don’t want to read this book immediately.
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – Do I even need to explain myself with this one? IT’S NIKOLAI FREAKING LANTSOV!
  • The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden – So I’ve had The Bear and the Nightingale on my shelves for ages, but I just bought the last two books in the trilogy. I’m hoping to binge read them in March, while it’s still a bit chilly outside.
  • Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – I was on the fence with this one for a while. There is a lot of hype around it and like I mentioned earlier, I’m trying to buy too many new books. But I’m in the middle of Enchantee right now and I’m really feeling the whole french themed story thing.
  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories by Various Authors – I blame this one on my deep love of The Daevabad Trilogy and the kindle sale I found it on. I’m trying to get into more short stories this year so hopefully I get to this one sooner rather than later.
  • The Fever King by Victoria Lee – I cannot begin to describe how stoked I am to get to read this one. It sounds like it has a good mix of science and magic and I do love me a good mash up.
  • Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames – I bought this book thinking that it wasn’t part of a series…I was wrong? I feel like I’ve read people saying I don’t need to read Kings of the Wyld first but I don’t remember where I read that. And honestly, my brain could have been making it up just so I could buy this flipping gorgeous cover.
  • The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera – I have been eyeing this book for a little over a year. I finally pulled the trigger on buying it because the cover just draws me in and promises an epic story.
  • To Best the Boys by Mary Weber – This books sounds all kinds of intriguing. Girls dressing up as boys to enter a scholarship competition that is only for men. Oh, and the competition is a maze! So much yes!
  • The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen – Let me just say that I audibly gasped when I opened my mail the other week and saw this ARC waiting for me. Ever since I read the synopsis I have been aching to read this. It’s not out until July but I’m reading this the moment I am done with any Feb/March ARCs that I have.

What are some books you’ve added to your TBR recently?

ARC Review: Warrior of the Wild

This book was sent to me by the publisher per my request. I chose to review it on my own and all views and opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced.

Warrior of the Wild
Author:
Tricia Levenseller
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating: 1.5 stars
Synopsis: How do you kill a god? As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.

Warrior of the Wild really missed the mark for me and a lot of it had to do with the main character. And the world building. And the side characters. And the romance. I guess I just need to say it: I really did not like this book very much.

Let’s start with Rasmira, the main character. I was expecting a fierce, feminist female main character because that’s what the hype around this book was saying. What I got was a girl who by page two of this book was obsessing about a boy kissing her. And sure, fierce warriors can want romance, but it grated on me because there was nothing about Rasmira that seemed fierce to me at all. Rasmira, to me, is the equivalent of a rich white girl who excels at a school sport and receives nothing but praise because her parents are donors to her private school. I got so annoyed whenever she was thinking her “poor me” thoughts. I never connected with her and found her to be whiny, immature, and unlikable.

And then there was the world building. The whole premise of this book is how Rasmira is banished to *The Wild* and must survive to win back her honor. The Wild…isn’t that scary. It’s basically a forest with some wild creatures in it (creatures that never attack unless it is important to the plot, which is basically never). Color me unimpressed. Like, how have so many of the “warriors” from villages been banished to the Wild and then died? Sure, if you go poking around the dwelling of the Peruxolo, the “villain” of the book, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a knife, but by and large the Wild seems like a place where you could take your family camping as long as you have some mild campsite fortifications. And outside of the very not scary Wild, there wasn’t much to be learned about this world. There are a couple villages, we get their names…and that’s about it.

I’m going to mash my issues of side characters and romance into the next paragraph but first a spoiler warning because the next paragraph definitely has some spoilers:

Okay, I will admit that I like romance in my books. At bare minimum I need one longing glance between two characters to enjoy a book. But never, in all my reading, have I been more annoyed and put off by a romance than I was in this book. When Rasmira is banished to the wild she find two boys who have been living in the wild for the last year. Which I thought was cool at first. And then I got to know the boys. Iric and Soren are from the same village and were basically brothers (by choice, not blood). But Soren is basically a selfish pretty boy and manipulated Iric to go out for the warrior trial, which he failed and was subsequently banished, and Soren decided to get himself banished as well because he felt guilty. The friendship and animosity between the two boys felt wooden at the best of times. Then we come to one of my big issues: the “romance” between Rasmira and Soren. The whole basis of their relationship is the fact that they are the only two hetero characters in the wild and the author even writes this observation into the story. It kinda disgusts me that Rasmira learned to trust again by falling in love with another dumb boy, but I guess we can’t all learn our personal strength outside of relationships with men [insert sarcastic eye roll here].

End spoilers.

So all that being said, I did like certain parts of this book. I thought the revelations about Peruxolo were interesting. I liked that this book went in a direction I was not anticipating. While the writing style wasn’t perfect, I was a least consistently drawn into the story, even though I never connected with it. And…I think that’s about it. This book just missed the mark so hard for me. For a book that has been so hyped as a fierce, feminist story, I felt incredibly let down.